Spring migration hasn’t really kicked in, yet, but the birds that are here are getting more active. Here are some recent images from Fernhill Wetlands. This Brewer’s Blackbird was looking good in the sunshine.
Black Phoebes are now expected at Fernhill Wetlands. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I found Washington County’s first Black Phoebe there.
This was my first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. He refused to perch in decent light.
A large flock of Taverner’s Cackling Geese were hanging out on Fernhill Lake. The Ridgeway’s Cackling Geese were either off feeding somewhere or have moved on.
Brush Rabbit, always adorable
California Ground Squirrel, soaking up the sun
Bright sunlight makes it hard for me to get a decent of photo of an American Coot, but this bird’s yoga pose was too good not to share.
Here are a few images of various animals I have seen lately. When the birds refuse to pose for photos, it is nice to find other creatures that are more cooperative. As I have said, there is always something to see.
Brush Rabbit, Fernhill Wetlands
The top image shows a massive male American Bullfrog found at Dober Reservoir. Note the injury around his right eye. The bottom image is of a newly emerged female. At this stage, she was about the size of the males head, but females typically grow larger than males of this species.
Orange Sulphur, found at Jackson Bottom. Unfortunately, this species perches with their wings closed, so you can’t see the vibrant colors on the top.
This Mylitta Crescent at Fernhill Wetlands was much more cooperative.
I don’t know the dragonflies, but I am told this individual from Fernhill Wetlands is a Striped Meadowhawk.
California Ground Squirrels, one of my favorite rodents, have become more common at Fernhill Wetlands since the reconstruction a few years ago.
This Black-tailed Deer and her fawn were enjoying the lush vegetation at Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Back to birds next time.
While I am usually looking specifically for birds, I enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter along the way.
I don’t spend a lot of effort looking for butterflies, but I do appreciate it when one poses for me. This is a Lorquin’s Admiral.
This Northwestern Garter was hiding under a piece of bark near a stump. The cloudy eyes indicate that the snake is about to shed. Snakes in this condition cannot see well, so I generally avoid handling them.
I am having trouble distinguishing Brush Rabbits from the introduced Eastern Cottontail. I have recently learned that the two species will hybridize, making identification even harder. The rusty nape on this individual makes me think it is an Eastern Cottontail.
One of the highlights of my most recent outing was the opportunity to watch a Long-tailed Weasel hunting. This is the first time I have seen this species for more than a few seconds. The weasel’s hunt was successful, so don’t go any farther if you find images of predation disturbing.
I first saw this Long-tailed Weasel chasing a Brush Rabbit down the trail and into the vegetation. After a brief tussle, the rabbit was subdued.
The weasel then dragged the rabbit across the trail and into the brush, despite the fact that the rabbit was significantly heavier than the weasel. These are impressive little predators.
A quick tour of Fernhill Wetlands showed bird activity picking up, with the appearance of newly arrived migrants and nest building by the local breeders. This Tree Swallow was staking out a cavity.
There are still some Cackling Geese around, although they should be heading north any day now. Here is a nice side-by-side view of a Ridgeway’s Cackling Goose and a Taverner’s Cackling Goose.
The male Brewer’s Blackbird was showing his colors in the bright sunlight. I caught him in the middle of a blink, so his eye looks weird.
California Quail have become slightly more common at Fernhill in recent years.
The Common Carp are spawning in Fernhill Lake.
I was pleased to find this Muskrat. The non-native Nutria have become so common at this site I worry they might crowd out the native Muskrats and Beavers.
California Ground Squirrels have been taking advantage of the large rocks used in the landscaping at this site.
This Brush Rabbit was looking very regal in his thicket.
Jackson Bottom is another site that I can visit during the pandemic, assuming I get there early. The big push of spring migration has not hit, but you can tell it’s so close. Tree Swallows have been back for quite a while now. They are usually perched on the many bird houses at this site, so it was nice to catch a couple actually using a tree.
The Savannah Sparrows are setting up territory. This would have been a nice shot if I could have caught a reflection in the bird’s eye.
There we go.
This Osprey spent a lot of time preening while I was there. He still looks pretty disheveled.
Anna’s Hummingbird, just high enough that I can’t get a good flash from his gorget
I’m still waiting for shorebirds to show up. Greater Yellowlegs have been the only arrivals so far.
Some Killdeer have started nesting already.
Several Common Garters (Red-spotted) were sunning themselves on this rock pile.
This garter had propped her body up against a log to better catch the morning sun.
I don’t remember seeing Camas at Jackson Bottom before, but they were in full bloom on this trip.
I made a quick trip to Fernhill Wetlands and Jackson Bottom to look for shorebirds. My first bird of the morning was this Killdeer standing on the sidewalk. I guess that counts.
There is a frustrating lack of mudflats in area wetlands this year. Areas are either dry with lots of vegetation or are full of water. I did manage to find this Wilson’s Snipe (front) feeding with a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher.
Young Spotted Sandpiper on a log
Lots of American White Pelicans are in the Willamette Valley right now.
The wetland rehabilitation at Fernhill Wetlands has resulted in much less exposed mud, but the thick emergent vegetation is hog heaven to rails, like this Virginia Rail.
In the “invasive but adorable” category are this Nutria with her baby.
Brush Rabbits rule the “native AND adorable” category.
These two Black-tailed Deer were at Jackson Bottom. I found it interesting that the little spike buck in front still had his antlers completely encased in velvet while the fork buck in back has already shed his velvet to reveal polished antler.
There is still about a month of shorebird migration left. I hope we get some good mudflats to bring them in. Happy Summer.
With the ongoing renovations taking place at Fernhill Wetlands, each visit throughout the year is a new experience. Most of the breeding species have done their thing, and the resident waterfowl have molted into ugly duck season. Water levels are still a little too high to provide shorebird habitat, but that should change soon enough.
Afternoon temperatures have been getting quite warm, so the brush rabbits come out early in the morning to enjoy the cool. The backlighting on this guy highlights the blood vessels in his ears.
Purple Martins are a new addition to Fernhill this year. A new nesting box installed beside the main lake has attracted at least one pair. If you build it, they will come.
These Cinnamon Teal were plowing through a thick mat of algae. Note the very large bills on these ducks, which help identify them in their summer plumage.
This hatch-year Hooded Merganser was hanging out in the middle of the lake. The unusual habitat choice and the unfamiliar juvenile plumage caused many birders, myself included, to initially call this a bird a Red-breasted Merganser. While a Red-breasted had been documented at this site in May, closer inspection of this bird reveals the solid head shape and the slightly smaller bill of a Hooded. Another reminder to actually look at every bird and don’t rely on others to identify them for you.
Turkey Vulture, experiencing some wing molt
This Red-winged Blackbird was one of a large flock feeding in the cattails.
Some of the local breeders are working on a second clutch. These young Barn Swallows are waiting for someone to come feed them. Soon the power lines will be crowded with young swallows preparing for their first migration.
I went out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands and Vanport Wetlands to check for migrants. The Smith and Bybee area was pretty slow. Water levels were high so some of the trails were inaccessible. Vanport had some really interesting birds, including several Redheads and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, both hard to find in the Portland area.
The small colony of Cliff Swallows at Smith and Bybee was active with nest building.
This House Sparrow had moved into an old Cliff Swallow nest.
American Bullfrogs were enjoying the spring weather.
Brush Rabbit scratching an itch
At Vanport, most birds were pretty far away, like this Yellow-headed Blackbird. His song was easily heard, even from across the lake.
This Ruddy Duck was doing his motorboat impression to impress the ladies.
This Cooper’s Hawk was atop a tall tree overlooking the racetrack. The loud engines did not seem to bother him. I can’t say the same for me.
A few birds, like this Cedar Waxwing, were down in the small trees along the near shore of the lake.
Bullock’s Orioles are often obscured by foliage in the treetops. This individual was low enough for a brief glimpse among the blossoms.
The Columbia River Gorge is not a terribly birdy place. You can hear some of the common species, and see a bird or two on any given hike, but there are better places to see the birds of the western Cascades. Occasionally, however, I remind myself that there is more to life than birds. Recently I left my binocular at home and took a couple of hikes in the gorge. Here are some highlights, minus the shortness of breath and sore calves.
This is a view from the rocky outcrop known as Angel’s Rest. From here you can see the Columbia River, forests in various stages of regrowth, and rimrock.
A view of the river with blooming Ocean Spray.
This young Brush Rabbit was sitting right by the trail. So cute.
Lorquin’s Admiral drinking near a stream
We passed this stream in the Wahkeena Falls area.
Western Tanager. I have to include at least one bird per post.